Category Archives: Vegetable sides

Hygge, hunkering…call it what you will

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I’m treating Sunday nights with kid gloves at the moment; something about the transition to Monday isn’t sitting easily. But luckily  I know what the antidote is: extreme cosiness, and the right food. Last night we had my current signature dish (by which I mean I’m cooking it two or three times a week due to not being able to remember what else to cook or eat, mainly because this is so good). I’m calling it, ‘Roasted ratatouille’, but it’s not mine at all: I nicked off Em, who got it from Rachel Roddy. I then bought Rachel Roddy’s book, Five Quarters, purely on the strength of how delicious the ratatouille is. The book is gorgeous, but I can’t find the ratatouille anywhere in it, so this is a handed-down, word-of-mouth version of the original (which has potatoes in, by the way. And I’d have ’em too if I could – but don’t in any way feel the lack of them). Anyway, props to R. Roddy for the idea. The first time I cooked it I questioned the 90 minute cooking time (are there any nutrition left in those veg? Possibly not…) and also the amount of oil. But I went with it and By Gum it’s seriously good; the veg sort of caramelise and come together with sweet intensity. Last night we had it with roast chicken. But the other day I just had a big bowl of it with grated cheese (if I could have been fagged, a zesty salad would have been a good aside). But however way you have it, it’s got hygge written all over it and it seriously took the edge off our Sunday evening. See? Food helps!

Roasted ratatouille

4 courgettes

2-3 red onions

8 large tomatoes

few cloves of garlic thickly chopped

100 ml olive oil

100ml water

Heat the oven to 190 degrees. Cut the courgettes into discs slightly thicker than a pound coin. Peel the onions, cut in half and then cut each half into four quarters. Core the tomatoes and chop into quarters with the garlic. Put into a baking tray (I prefer to use glass because I think it cooks more nicely in a way I cannot explain scientifically) and gently toss in the oil. Salt and pepper and then pour the water into one corner of the tray (rather than all over the vegetables) so it resides at the bottom. Check and gently turn every 20 minutes or so. After 90 minutes it should all have cooked down and resemble a sort of caramelised  tray bake, at which point it is ready. Hurrah!

So what’s the alternative to chips?

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If you have ever tried to give up carbs, or even just tried to eat fewer of them then I don’t need to tell you how hard it is to feel full – and how easy it is to feel deprived.

Now I am seven years into my own carb-free journey, I am much less deranged with deprivation than I was for the first year during which I would – literally – go to bed dreaming about bread, cake and crisps. But there is no denying the fact that sometimes all the green veg in the world, delicious as they may be, just don’t quite cut the mustard on the fullness front.

And, since the secret to being happy on a carb-free diet is to find ways not to feel deprived, these three dishes are total stalwarts on my weekly menu, being that holy trinity of easy, delicious – and satisfying.

They each involve quite large and unwieldy vegetables though, so these are three recipes where it really pays to have a robust and sharp knife and, in the case of the cauliflower rice, a food processor. Having said that, I have made it with a grater, and it’s fine – just a bit more work. The other thing to mention about cauliflower rice is that when I first made it, I used to microwave it, which totally does the trick. But roasting it, with a bit of oil, both brings out the flavour and dries it out too, which is a good thing when you are eating it with curry or something else a little bit saucy that needs mopping up.

The faff of both the celeriac and the squash is mainly in the preparation. You really do need a decent peeler but once you have one – I use the sharp peeler from Lakeland which is under a fiver but honestly the best peeler I have ever used – you will make short work of even the toughest and rootiest veg. And the faff-factor is so worth it for the resulting crispy gorgeousness, which is so good it can even eclipse actual chips!

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Cauliflower rice

1 medium sized cauliflower

½ fresh chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped

handful chopped coriander

ground nut oil

Preheat the oven to 200C. Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower, cut it into quarters and remove most of the thick core, then cut each quarter into two or three chunks. To avoid overloading the blender, blitz it in two or three batches, for 30 seconds or so, until the cauliflower resembles fine rice. If you are grating, use the coarse side of the grater.

Toss the rice in a drizzle of oil in a baking tray and spread it out to a thin, even layer. Then roast for 12 minutes, mixing halfway through cooking. Season after cooking, and add the finely chopped chilli and coriander (or other herbs, depending on what you are making to serve with it).

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Celeriac chips with home-made aioli.

 1 celeriac

ground nut oil

salt and pepper

paprika

Preheat the oven to 190C.
 Wash and peel the celeriac, which is no mean feat! Slice off the top and bottom and cut the celeriac into thumb-thick slices and then into fat chip shapes (or thin, if you prefer).

Put in to a large bowl and toss in a little oil, and sea salt then put into the oven. After 15 minutes carefully toss the chips with two spatulas (so they don’t disintegrate) then cook for another 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Season with a dusting of paprika.

Aioli

½ small clove garlic , peeled

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 large free-range egg yolk

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

285 ml extra virgin olive oil

285 ml olive oil

lemon juice , to taste

Smash up the garlic with one teaspoon of salt in a pestle and mortar, or with the flat of a large knife. Place the egg yolk and mustard in a bowl and whisk together, then start to add your oils bit by bit. Once you’ve blended in a quarter of the oil, you can start to add the rest in larger amounts. When the mixture thickens, add lemon juice. When all the oil has gone in, add the garlic then season to taste. Et voila!

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Spicy butternut squash

1 squash

oil

salt and pepper

mild chilli powder

Preheat your oven to 190C. Peel and de-seed your squash, cut into 1cm cubes as evenly as possible (easier said than done, so don’t get too hung up on accuracy).

Before putting into the roasting pan, I put them into a large bowl to toss them in oil using my hands to make sure they are evenly coated. Once in the pan, shake pretty liberal quantities of chilli powder and sea salt and again, toss to make sure they are coated. A word about chilli powders: I use Sainsbury’s mild chilli powder which is as good as its word but be warned that other types of mild chilli powders can be no such thing so it is a good idea to proceed with caution if you haven’t tried whatever brand you are using before.

Roast for 25-30 minutes before gently tossing and dislodging any cubes that are stuck, and finish cooking for another 20 or so minutes or until they are totally soft when you fork them, and deliciously chewy and caramelised.

How to make a ‘ta-da’ meal (that is undercover special needs)

Beetroot-starter Chorizo-stew

When I first started my unfeasibly-restrictive-diet I not only stopped eating out in restaurants and accepting invitations, but I assumed that it was curtains for my days as a hostess. I really love nothing more than cooking a huge meal for my friends and family – but how could I inflict my diet upon them?

As luck would have it, that turned out to be just the panic talking and, if anything, I have become even more of a dedicated and enthusiastic cook for other people since starting this diet. I just love the uniting effect that delicious food can have on people, and conversation. And what I have found is that although my diet is restrictive, I can make huge feasts and serve them to people who have absolutely no idea that I’m cooking around restrictions.

However, there is nothing worse than turning up for supper to a hostess who is red-faced, furious and stressed out; unable to properly talk or even offer you a drink, dammit, because she is either trying out a new recipe that’s going wrong, or because the timing of the meal is so precise and complicated that there is room in her brain for nothing else. Not even a little martini.

So please note: by ‘ta-da’ I do NOT mean complex or complicated, with a capucino froth wrapped in a sugar basket.

What I mean is a meal that is delicious, a bit decadent, makes people feel looked after and – crucially – doesn’t taste compromised. But also which can be made with minimal fuss and bother, ideally in advance, so you can get on with the important business of martini-making and putting the world to rights with your friends.

I have fed this chorizo stew to many many people over the years and I honestly don’t think anyone has noticed that it’s grain-free, sugar-free and, now I come to think of it, dairy-free too.

A quick note on ingredients: When I’m buying the chorizo, I scrutinise the label to make sure it hasn’t got dextrose or sugar in (lots do). Ideally, it should just have pork, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Also, I can’t emphasise enough how worth it it is to splash a bit of cash on the jars of posh beans (which are only £3.50 but that seems a lot compared to 50p for a tin). I like Navaricco, which you can find in the big branches of M&S and some delis but be warned: once you have tried them there is no going back. When I go to a shop that sells them I automatically buy as many as I can carry, because running out is just WOEFUL when you are grain-free, because these beans are so good at taking your mind off the fact that you are.

Beets with rocket pesto

Serves 6

Beets – I allow about 2 small beets per person for a starter

Red wine vinegar for cooking

2 bags rocket leaves

200 g walnuts roughly chopped

150 g parmesan (grated or chopped into small chunks)

1 large clove of garlic, chopped

extra virgin oil

salt and pepper

Boil the beets in water with a splash of red wine vinegar until they are tender (which depends on the size). Drain and cool and then peel and chop them into quarters.

Put the rocket, walnuts, parmesan with a good pinch of salt and grind of pepper and blitz it in your food processor, adding olive oil until it’s the consistency of pesto. Dress your beets with as much pesto as people like and hey PESTO! (sorry).

Chorizo, red pepper and posh bean stew

Serves 6 

2 medium onions, chopped

2 chorizo sausages (uncooked)

5 red/yellow/orange peppers

2 tins tomatoes

1 jar posh haricot beans (though any white bean will do).

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

salt and pepper

This stew is so easy to cook it’s almost embarrassing.

Fry the onions until they are soft. While you are doing that, chop the peppers into thinnish slices then cut them in half. Then cut the chorizo into thick slices. I then cut the slices in half because it’s easier to eat – but I’ll leave that to your discretion. Also, drain and rinse the beans.

When the onion is cooked, add the chorizo and let it cook for a bit before adding the peppers, stirring every so often. After about five minutes add the beans and, a few minutes later, the tomatoes, garlic and smoked paprika. Definitely taste before you salt as chorizo is often quite salty. Then cook slowly on a low heat for about an hour before eating. I served it with purple sprouting broccoli and I didn’t even spare a thought for the patatas bravas that might have gone with it if I could eat potatoes.

Pretending to be normal

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Pasta with prawns, chorizo and cherry tomatoes

When people ask me what I miss most about my old, carb-tastic life, my answer – and believe me I have really given this matter some thought – is always the same: “Being normal”.

Tragic, isn’t it? It’s TRUE though. For all the Pringles, pizza and pork scratchings that I would consider chopping off a limb, or at least a digit or two, to be able eat again, the thing that I struggle most with is being the Special Needs guest who comes with a list of demands as long as Maria Carey, whether I’m popping over to a friend’s for a quiet supper or having to  interrogate the waiter for hours about whether there is sugar in the salad dressing or flour in the sauce. It really does not come naturally to me all that stuff.

Anyway, I could – and frequently do – go on and on about the frustrations of the carb and sugar free life BUT this is not a rant or a moan. ‘Tis instead a  joyful newsflash about a little bit of normality that can now be mine: pasta. Yup pasta. Made from red lentils.

I know. It sounds gross, doesn’t it? And definitely not pasta. But it is MUCH more pasta-like than, say, courgetti (which as you know I love, and hold dear). And it really, honestly, doesn’t taste of lentils. It does just the job that pasta does; namely to provide a sturdy, slightly tasteless vehicle for a delicious sauce.  Happy days! And to think I might be living my life unaware…so I will pause here, if I may, to solemnly thank the wonderful Afsaneh Knight (author, and tireless Special Needs Products Searcher extraordinaire) for this exciting piece of intel.

It’s made by ‘Tolerant’ (pic below) and they do black bean pasta too but that, in my dogged and very enthusiastic experimentation, I have found to be a bit more inclined to dwindle, with cooking, into mash – as you’d probably expect. The red lentil rotini on the other hand retains structure and body magnificently, I find. And last night, me and Tom whipped some up (normal pasta for him…at a fiver a box, I  don’t feel the need to inflict the Special Needs on him with this particular dish) with prawns* and chorizo* and cherry tomatoes all fried up in garlic and oil with some basil. Nice and normal, like.

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*With prawns I always check packaging to make sure there is no sugar (which, strangely, there often is – I mean, why would you?). And with chorizo I always watch out for dextrose, but there are brands which don’t add it…more on that in another post.

Experimental fritters

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This is a really good example of something I wouldn’t in a million years have bothered to cook before I started my new life as a grain-free person rendered unable to eat deliciously battered, frittered and fried stuff. But, as I may have mentioned before, necessity is the mother of invention. And where there’s a will to eat fritters, there’s a way to find a way to cook ’em, eat ’em and be thankful  that fritters can once again be part of your life .

I ended up making these twice recently and the first time I – being inclined slightly towards slap-dashery – massively underestimated the importance of extracting as much of the water from the courgettes as possible before assembling the fritter. If you don’t do this you end up losing a lot of the flavour from the added garlic and chilli and lemon zest, as you will end up literally squeezing the excess water from the courgette as you shape your grated, zested and seasoned mixture into a patty. So even if you, too, are a bit slap-dash, I’d say the salting and weighing down of your grated courgettes for a good couple of hours before adding the other stuff is unavoidable. It may sound a faff, but if you get started early enough it’s really the work of an instant, or maybe two, to set the ball in motion and it makes a huge difference. I served these with cucumber and mint yoghurt, and garlic and oregano roasted tomatoes which really was quite fine, as a combo.

Grain-free fritters use almond flour instead of real flour and I guess if you can do this with courgettes, then the frittering possibilities are not exactly endless, but I’m happy to say that another door has definitely opened and I will be reporting back on other experiments in frittering, believe you me.

Courgette fritters (makes 4-6) 

4 medium courgettes

zest of 1 lemon

chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

ground-nut oil for frying

1 or 2 raw eggs, beaten

150 g ground almonds  (you may need more, depending on the size of your fritters)

100 g grated parmesan

Grate the courgettes into a sieve then suspend the sieve over a bowl, lightly salt (not too much as it’s hard to wipe the salt off grated anything) and put a plate on top small enough to directly touch the courgettes. Then weight the plate with something small and heavy (I used an earthenware pot full of utensils). Over the course of two hours you will be AGOG, and strangely satisfied, to see how much water is released.

When you think the courgettes are suitably de-watered, mix the ground almonds and parmesan together and put the combination of the two on a side plate, for dipping purposes.  Then mix the chilli, zest and garlic into 1 beaten egg then season and add that to the courgettes. Use your judgement about whether it needs another egg (you want it to bind things together but not render the mixture too wet) before using your hands to shape into patties the size that you desire. Smallish is good, I think, because they do incline towards cracking and breaking. Then carefully and patiently dip either side of each patty into the almond/parmesan mix. Heat up the ground-nut  oil and fry on either side until they are golden brown. Then put into a roasting tin and, when you are ready, heat the oven to 180 and cook for 20-15 minutes.

 

aubergizza and griddled courgettes

Auberg-izza      griddled courgettes

 

Back in the day when I could eat pizza with abandon, I was blasé and took it for granted. I did eat pizza quite often (mmmm Strada) but I don’t think I realised how lucky I was and how much I would miss it when it was gone.

But whenever I am getting forlorn and sad, and wistfully rueing all the delicacies that I can no longer eat (tempting though that is) what I try to do is to stay in the present. And, now that pizza has been banned, I keep on coming up with new ways to scratch the pizza itch. Cauliflower pizza is pretty darn good, and so are roasted tomatoes with oregano. But here’s the latest experiment: aubergizza! Or maybe it’s pizzagine; I haven’t decided yet. I made these for my vegetarian sister-in-law at the weekend and I was planning to make lots of things to go with them. But we ran out of time so I just served them with these griddled courgettes, and a green salad, and it felt like a pretty substantial supper and really quite pizza-like (bearing in mind that I am coming from a starting point of complete pizza-less-ness, that is).

 

Tomato sauce

I made this a couple of hours in advance as it benefits from a bit of long slow cooking but it’s really an assembly job and then the magic just happens in the pan with zero interference.

2 small onions, diced

2 garlic cloves

2 tins tomatoes (it’s really worth splashing the cash on Napolitana ones which are twice the price but twice as nice as many other brands, I think).

Fry the onions in ground nut or rape seed oil (I know I’m coming late to the party but these oils have a higher burn point than olive oil so don’t turn into horrible transfats) until soft and translucent. When they are cooked, gently smash the garlic with the back of a large knife and put in whole for a minute or two before adding the tomatoes then cooking for at least an hour, with the lid off so it reduces a bit and becomes fairly consolidated. Put aside and move onto the aubergines. If you are making this and really feel passionately that olive oil is essential – as I do, actually – you could always add a glug of extra virgin olive oil at the very end, once cooked, just before serving.

Aubergizza

Just to say that a griddle pan is a pretty essential piece of kit for this!

4 medium aubergines (I allowed one per person in case they were so delicious people couldn’t stop eating them – but we had leftovers which is no bad thing).

Tomato sauce

cheddar cheese, grated

Slice the aubergines lengthways into pretty chunky slices (it depends on size of course but I got four slices out of each one). Ideally, you’d put them into a bowl and salt them then leave them with a heavy weight on for at least half an hour before wiping the salt and water away. But I don’t suppose it’s the end of the world if you don’t have time for this. Then put them into a bowl and use your hands to make sure they are completely covered on both sides with rape seed oil. Heat your griddle pan up so it’s really hot, then place the aubergine slices lengthways (you’ll probably have to do this in batches and the pan should be so hot that the aubergines should sizzle as they meet it). Cook one side and then the other, using a fork to make sure they are properly cooked and beautifully branded with sizzle marks. Then remove to cool and  continue cooking the rest.

Once you’ve cooked them all, put the grill on and arrange the aubergines side by side on the grill pan before covering each one with tomato sauce, then cheddar, and grilling them so the cheese melts.

As the cheese was melting, I gridded my courgettes, which I’d basted in rapeseed oil and lemon. If I’d had more time I might have done something a bit fancier with them (some kind of garlicky dressing and maybe built a salad around them), but they were pretty good on their own.

Suddenly-feels-like-summer supper

chicken kebabs with cucumber yoghurt dressinggriddled halloumi skewers

Suddenly, there’s something different in the air. The proof of the pudding is that yesterday I went out without a scarf for the first time since September which can only mean one thing: summer is a-comin’. Before you know it I’ll be liberating my feet and wearing the Lotta clogs that I bought in March in a fit of very previous over-excitement that it might not be winter forever. The other way I know it’s nearly summer is that we had the, ‘Let’s get a barbecue! Or maybe a chiminea? Or something that does both?’ conversation in anticipation of being at the lovely beginning of the chapter of wanting to sit and cook and eat outside in our (quite teeny; very urban) garden. As usual, we couldn’t decide, or commit, so instead we made kebabs and griddled ’em and ate them with the garden doors opening, listening to all our neighbours living it up al fresco. You can only really griddle food (well at least in our kitchen) when it’s warm enough to cook with both garden doors open to create maximum air circulation. Otherwise, you just get smoked out and the house reeks like a kebab-house for days which, no matter how delicious the food was, only induces regret.

Lemony chicken kebabs with basil and garlic

2 or 3 chicken beasts (depending on how many you want to make

BBQ skewers (which you are supposed to soak for half an hour before using so they don’t burn)

A griddle pan if you have one (which gives those gorgeous char-grilled strips that are probably really bad for you. You could also use a frying pan or grill but this moves it away from scratching the BBQ itch)

For the marinade

These really do taste so much better, and are so much more tender, if you marinade the chicken for as long as you have time to do.

juice and zest of 1 lemon

handful or 2 of basil or tarragon or any herb you like with chicken roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

olive oil and pepper

Put the marinade ingredients into a bowl big enough to hold the chicken as well, then cube the chicken into quite small chunks (I’m paranoid about under-cooking chicken which feels easier to do if you are searing the outside on a very hot griddle, which is why I go quite small, but it is of course up to you). Using your hands or a large spoon, make sure each cube is well coated with marinade then cover and put in the fridge until you are ready to cook, at which point, remove from the fridge then spear the chicken, piece-by-piece on to your wooden skewers. As you are doing this, heat your griddle pan up so it is very, very hot indeed. You don’t need to oil it as long as your chicken is very efficiently coated in the oily marinade. Once your chicken cubes are be-skewered and your griddle is searingly hot, put your kebabs onto the pan, turning when one side is cooked, making sure each side gets seared.

I served these with a dressing made from home-made yoghurt (although you could of course use shop-bought if you are not following the SCD) with some finely chopped cucumber and mint. plus a squeeze of lemon juice and a glug of extra virgin oil.

I have cooked these in the past with  vegetables on the skewers too, which can be delicious, but which can also result in everything cooking at different rates so at least one of the components are not that nice. I remedied this by roasting some courgettes and aubergines with whole garlic cloves in the oven (but I then almost forgot about them,  rescuing them when they were just – just! – on the right side of burnt, as you can see below).

almost burnt roast aubergine and courgette

Lemony halloumi skewers 

I also made some satisfyingly chunky cubes of halloumi, which I cut up then marinaded in the same combo of basil, lemon, garlic and olive oil (not very original on the one hand but, on the other, if it ain’t broke why fix it?), skewered, then griddled.

election night supper

mini burgers and oregano tomatoes

 

What to make when you are having old friends over to watch the election (and catch up on all the goss)? Tiny little burgers of course! So, so, so easy and very relaxed. I just used two 450g packs of organic ground beef mixed with a couple of whisked eggs then used my hands to shape them into tiny little patties. I experimented with embedding cubes of cheddar inside some of them,  which went down really well with  my four year old son, then fried each side for about three minutes each. For the adults, a bit later, I just put slices of cheese on top as soon as I’d flipped, and it melted perfectly. Carb-eaters can have buns (of course! never deprive the carb eaters if you don’t have to, is my rule of thumb.) I just ate ’em neat.

The asparagus is roasted for about 12 minutes, with olive oil salt and pepper. No par-boiling, even.

I just want to tell you about the roasted tomatoes that are centre stage of this picture. I started making them a few years ago when I was hankering after pizza and realised that a lot of that unique pizza deliciousness comes down to the oregano and tomatoes. These tomatoes are just cut in half, salted and peppered then sprinkled – quite generously – with dried oregano and a few slices of garlic, then olive oiled and cooked for about half an hour at 180 degrees. So simple and yet more delicious than seems viable for such a tiny amount of interference. Try it! They go amazingly well with white fish and on the side of halloumi and keep in the fridge for a few days at least. We all enjoyed them so much we almost forgot about the election. Almost.

broccoli fritters with lime avocado dip

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Fritters. Mmm. Just the word is enough to remind a person in my (grain-free) situation of the deprivation levels, and the extreme grief and sadness about the fact that battered and breaded delicacies are on-offer no more.

So. Imagine my excitement to come across this recipe for broccoli fritters in the Hemsley and Hemsley cook book (which is totally amazing by the way and, if you have not yet come across it, I highly recommend it, particularly if you are avoiding half of the food groups like I am). They probably don’t hold together as efficiently as something bound with actual flour or bread, but a) beggars can’t be choosers and b) the fritter quality from ground almonds plus parmesan cheese plus egg is a pretty good consolation prize. Being broccoli based they are healthy, but with enough interesting zest and taste to be really rather more-ish, particularly when served with this DELICIOUS avocado dip. Now that I have blitzed up an avocado with yoghurt (so silky! So smooth!) I can see that the possibilities are endless, so stand by for more dip ideas once I have experimented a bit.

I made these for a full house of in-laws (there were six of us adults eating) and actually they pretty much got snaffled up – but you can freeze the leftovers if they don’t.

Ingredients 

Fritters

2 large broccoli heads, about 900g.

2 large spring onions, finely sliced

3 garlic cloves, diced

1 tsp lemon zest

100g or more ground almonds

80g parmesan, grated

large handful parsley or coriander

salt and peper

1 tsp ground cumin, chilli or smoked paprika

1-2 eggs

oil for frying

Heat the oven to 170 degrees.

Grate the broccoli using the coarse teeth of the grater (the fine teeth make it too watery, as does the food processor). Put in a bowl and add everything except the egg and mix together.

Beat one egg and add to the mix. If it’s too wet add more almonds; if too dry add part or all of the other egg.

Make a test fritter by making it into a patty and frying for a few minutes on either side. Taste, then adjust the seasoning to your taste. Once you are happy, make the mixture into patties – the recipe says 30 but I made more like 15 large ones. Fry each patty on either side  then put into a baking tray (I did that bit a few hours before we were due to eat). Then bake for 20-25 minutes until firm.

Avocado dip

2 large avocados

4 tbsp lime juice

4 tbsp extra virgin oil

4 tbsp yoghurt (I used SCD yoghurt, which I make myself in a yoghurt maker for 24 hours, which I will post about another time, but you can use any natural yoghurt).

2 spring onions or one small onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1/4 tsp or more of cayenne pepper or minced red chilli (leave out if you don’t like chilli!)

salt and pepper

Blend everything together with 2 tbspns water and slowly add the cayenne or chilli to your taste. Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve with fritter and salad. Delish!

The joy of…veg

The joy of...veg 1

Sometimes, on a Monday night in January, the doctor will order you to have a plate of vegetables for supper. The trick – as ever, well at least in my book – is to avoid worthiness at all costs, not least because ‘worthy’ so often goes hand in hand with feeling deprived.  This Monday night supper was made mainly from veg I had kicking around in the fridge – plus some sprouts that I actually left the house specifically to buy, which may sound queer, I grant you, BUT since I discovered the transformative powers of roasting sprouts, I have ushered them into my life with gusto, and you should too. The broccoli was just steamed, and you could leave it at that. I prefer, however, to chop it up with salt and pepper and some lovely, delicious butter (the hardest part of no toast and butter for six years? No butter!). The courgettes, I thinly sliced and fried with olive oil and garlic. And the squash is the closest things to potatoes that my life these days allows but is still delicious every time I eat it (which is to say, many times per month). I served it with haricoumous (like hummus, made with posh beans). Then to unite them all, I shaved some parmesan on top. A good example of a meal that is meat and carb free, but leaves you missing neither, not even for a nano-second. Just what the doctor ordered.

Roasted sprouts

Am I alone in being slightly bereft to find out that a couple of local supermarkets seem to have stopped selling sprouts just because Christmas is over? Probably. But just in case you are a sprout lover too, and have a lovely Turkish veg shop nearby, like I do, then here goes:

Sprouts (as many as you like), trimmed and cut in half

salt, pepper, oil

This is so simple, but roasting really does turn sprouts from being slightly punishing, into a pleasure. Just arrange the half sprouts in a roasting tin. Splash some oil and salt and pepper, using your hands to make sure each sprout has been anointed with oil. Roast at about 180 degrees for about 40 minutes. They are done when the outer layers are coming away and a bit char grilled and crispy, and the insides are soft, which probably removes at least half of any nutritional value – but half is better than none, right?

Pan fried courgettes

I know a lot of people object to the watery mealiness of courgettes, and I can see their point but this is a good way to take courgettes down a different path. I slice them as thinly as possible – if you have a grater with a slicing side, that’s probably the easiest way to do it. Then pan fry, with some garlic and oil, until they are super soft.

Courgettes (I allow one medium courgette per person as a side dish), thinly sliced.

salt, pepper, oil, garlic.

This is so simple it barely needs instructions: just bung the courgettes in a pan (I favour a wok saucepan) with some oil. After about five minutes add the garlic, either crushed or sliced (amount wise, very much to taste; I think I probably use more than the average punter) and pepper. Cook until the slices have sort of melted together – at least 20 minutes, sometimes more. Don’t salt until the end (to avoid creating too much liquid).

Spicy squash

I think I first had this, or something like this, at Bistroteque and then came home quite fixated upon trying it out myself. The chilli powder really adds another, caramelised, dimension to squash (something which  I had barely eaten, before following this diet, but which I have learned to really love). A note on chilli powders, however, which is that they seriously vary in power and this doesn’t taste as nice when the chilli powder is too strong. I have tried a few and the best is definitely Sainsbury’s mild chilli powder, which is so mild as to be barely chilli-ish at all, but which works exactly the magic you are after. The main obstacle with this is the preparation of the squash, which is a faff BUT I can’t emphasise enough the happiness and speed that results from the right peeler (Lakeland do the best squash peeler I have ever found, and it’s under a fiver: http://www.lakeland.co.uk/15805/Vegetable-Peeler)

One large squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into smallish chunks

oil, salt, pepper, mild chilli powder

Once you have chopped the squash, the work is over, and all you do is arrange it in a roasting tin, splash on some oil, salt and pepper and liberal shakes of mild chilli powder (if it is Sainburys; if it is another brand you almost certainly should be positively miserly). Roast for 45 mins to an hour at 180 degrees until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.